St Giles, Brough

Site Code: BSG90
Grid reference: SE 209 996

St Giles, Brough (also known as Saint Giles by Brompton Bridge) in North Yorkshire was excavated between 1988 and 1990 by North Yorkshire County Council in response to severe erosion of the site by the river Swale. The hospital was in use between circa 1181 and 1576 AD, and the cemetery included the burial of at least one priest. As would be expected at a hospital cemetery, many individuals from St Giles displayed skeletal evidence for disease.

St Giles 1423

Age: Old Middle Adult (36 - 45 years)
Sex: Male ?
Burial position: Buried within the chapel in a supine and extended position, west-east aligned, head to the west.
Burial context: This individual was buried with a mortuary chalice and paten of lead and tin alloy, a burial rite reserved for priests.

Pathology: Displacement of the proximal right femoral epiphysis inferiorly and posteriorly. The femoral neck is extremely shortened. The changes in the proximal femur have led to the expansion of the articular surface of the right acetabulum. Both the femoral head and acetabulum have extensive areas of eburnation. These changes are consistent with a Type 1 slipped femoral epiphysis (complete separation of the epiphysis from the metaphysis but with no fracture of the epiphysis), with secondary osteoarthritis of the right hip joint.

The changes in the right hip caused shortening of the right lower limb (also evident in the excavation photographs). In addition there is osteophyte formation on the lumbar spine and wedging of L4 and L5, leading to increased lordosis and scoliosis. The vertebral changes suggest that this individual continued to walk, and that the vertebral column compensated for the shortened limb.

St Giles 1423 excavation photograph
Image 1:
In situ photograph of lower limbs prior to lifting of skeleton. The right lower limb is clearly shorter than the left lower limb.

St Giles 1423 hip
Image 2:
Hip joint showing severe bony remodelling as a result of the slipped femoral epiphysis.

References: Knüsel, C.J., Chundun, Z.C., and Cardwell, P. 1992. Slipped proximal femoral epiphysis in a priest from the medieval period. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 2: 109-119.

Cardwell, P. 1995. Excavation of the hospital of St Giles by Brompton Bridge, North Yorkshire. Archaeological Journal 152: 109-245.

Last Updated:01 May 2012